Eight bus drivers file application to quash IAC decision in dispute against SBS Transit

Eight bus drivers on Thu (16 Jan) filed a judicial review application to the High Court to quash the Industrial Arbitration Court’s (IAC)’s decision in their dispute against SBS Transit regarding overtime wages and rest days.

A hearing was conducted on 4 Nov last year to determine whether public transport operators have the legal right to require their employees to work beyond the maximum of 44 hours per week as stated in the Employment Act based on exceptions.

IAC president Chan Seng Onn, a High Court judge, in a written decision stated that SBS Transit’s agreements with the National Transport Workers’ Union (NTWU) were not in breach of the Employment Act.

The IAC decision, argued the drivers as seen by TOC in court documents dated 16 Jan, was “irrational” and was in breach of its jurisdiction, as the IAC had allegedly failed to consider “all relevant material” prior to making said decision.

The bus drivers argued that the IAC’s decision was based “solely” upon “samples of bus captains’ employment contracts and information provided by SBS Transit”, which the IAC had “extrapolated to all Bus Captains” as well as “the presentations by NTWU which held the position that SBS Transit’s practices were not in breach of the Employment Act”.

“This is clearly irrational, as it does not take into account rosters and contracts of Bus Captains who allege otherwise,” their affidavit read.

Furthermore, the bus drivers highlighted that NTWU, as an entity that is not a party to the dispute between them and SBS, should not act as — in their words, “a nosy parker” to represent the interests of non-unionised workers such as themselves, particularly when the union holds that the plaintiffs have no basis for their claims.

“It is highly irregular for NTWU to be taking cognisance of a trade dispute raised by non-union members, and at the same time, maintaining the position that the aforesaid disputants have no basis for their claims,” they argued.

The bus drivers also alleged — in giving reasons for applying for judicial review of the IAC decision — that SBS Transit had “covertly attempted” to have the legal dispute “resolved beforehand” in the IAC in their absence.

The above, they argued, constituted a breach of the audi alteram paltram rule — one of the principal rules in natural justice — which dictates that a decision made by a court cannot stand unless the party directly affected by the decision was given a fair chance to state their case and to hear the other party’s case in a hearing.

The plaintiffs also argued that the IAC had “jumped the gun” by taking on the question of whether SBS Transit’s practices were in line with the Employment Act “before it was established that SBS Transit was in breach of the relevant provisions” of the Act.

They claimed that it is not within the jurisdiction of a lower court such as the IAC to do so, and that “it is for a higher court to deliver judgement” on whether or not there has been a breach before referring the case back to the IAC to give the necessary orders.

The bus drivers, in light of the above claims, have also applied to the High Court for a quashing order against the IAC decision.

The bus drivers in the immediate case — represented by M Ravi of Carson Law Chambers — comprise three Singaporeans and five Malaysians. Five of them filed a writ of summons against SBS Transit in Sep last year, while three filed theirs in Dec.

Lawsuits against SBS Transit over wage dispute filed in Sep last year

In a writ of summons filed by Mr M Ravi and seen by TOC last Sep, five bus drivers, who have been working for SBS Transit between three years to a decade, alleged that the company has “breached the term of the contract on overtime pay and have underpaid the clients”.

The above claim was made based on the discrepancy between the drivers’ working hour records and the monthly pay slips they had received from SBS Transit, which were below the Ministry of Manpower (MOM)’s regulated pay rate, the document read.

Mr M Ravi argued that the aforementioned lawsuit is significant, as the immediate case is “the first wage dispute case of its kind involving Singapore’s bus operator”.

The ruling will not only affect Carson Law Chambers’ immediate clients in this case, but also thousands of other SBS transit drivers, as “[m]any have worked loyally and diligently for several years and back-pay”, said the firm.

Mr M Ravi added that the possibility of a breach of MOM’s regulated pay rate needs to be examined in the immediate case, and that any “statutory sanctions”, if available, should be looked into accordingly.

Additionally, the suit will potentially delve into the “extent of various Employment Act breaches that may have occurred with regards rest days and overtime pay in the Contracts of Employment”, according to Mr M Ravi.

A statement of claim — filed the same month — stressed that four of the bus drivers had already “commenced similar suits” against SBS Transit in the Magistrates Court previously, but were told to “wait for the decision” regarding their claim and report against the company.

“However, both the claim and report were ignored despite attending two (2) meetings with the National Transport Workers’ Union (“NTWU”) and ComfortDelGro respectively,” the document read, noting that the meetings took place in Jul and Aug.

The particular plaintiff in the statement of claim had “officially lodged a report to Tripartite Alliance for Dispute Management (TADM)”, which was then referred to the National Trades Congress Union (NTUC).

However, he did not receive any “conclusive answers” after the meetings and decided to request “an official letter” from SBS Transit detailing the breakdown of his monthly pay in order “to better understand where the Defendants were coming from”.

While SBS Transit purportedly agreed to send such a letter within two days of the bus driver’s request, he did not receive any response from the company, following which he “sent out four (4) chaser emails” to the company.

SBS Transit allegedly replied by “restating their position which is in breach of the contract”, according to the statement of claim.

Among the alleged breaches included, but were not limited to, the following:

  • Expecting the plaintiff to work for “7 consecutive days prior to getting an off day”, which the plaintiff claimed was not what both he and SBS Transit had agreed upon in the Letter of Appointment – thus possibly breaching Section 36 of the Employment Act where an employee should be given a rest day per week, or a rest day after a continuous period of 30 hours if on shift; and
  • Putting the plaintiff in a position where he had worked “beyond 44 hours in a week”, which possibly contravenes Sections 38(1)(a) and 38(1)(b) of the Employment Act whereby an employee should not be required to work either more than 6 consecutive hours without a period of leisure, or more than 8 hours in a day, or more than 44 hours in a week.

The Straits Times reported Mr M Ravi as saying on Fri (17 Jan) that the five drivers will currently undergo mediation, but will carry on with their civil lawsuit and go to trial against SBS Transit should the two parties fail to settle the dispute via mediation.

Mr M Ravi also told ST on Fri that a pre-trial conference for the judicial review against the IAC decision is scheduled for 4 Feb at 2.30pm.

The post Eight bus drivers file application to quash IAC decision in dispute against SBS Transit appeared first on The Online Citizen.

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Double Your TFSA Without Risking Your Shirt: Here’s How

Glass piggy bank

Hello, Fools. I’m back to draw attention to three attractive growth stocks. Why? Because companies with rapidly growing revenue and earnings

As legendary investor Warren Buffett once said, “Put together a portfolio of companies whose aggregate earnings march upward over the years, and so also will the portfolio’s market value.”

So, if you’re looking to safely double your TFSA over the next five years, this is a good place to start.

Staying active

Leading off our list is Gildan Activewear (TSX:GIL)(NYSE:GIL), which has grown its EPS and revenue at a rate of 62% and 42%, respectively, over the past five years. Shares of the apparel products company are off about 10% over the past year.

Gildan’s long-term growth should continue to be supported by solid scale (more than 30 manufacturing facilities globally), well-recognized brands, and healthy investments ($1.5 billion in capital spending over the last decade).

While the company has been seeing volume softness in recent months, it still managed to generate $47 million in Q3 free cash flow.

“We have a strong balance sheet and expect to continue to generate strong free cash flow, and we will continue to allocate capital where we think we can achieve strong returns and deliver value to our shareholders over the long term,” said CFO Rhodri Harries.

Gildan shares currently offer a dividend yield of nearly 2%.

Premium pick

Next up, we have Premium Brands Holdings (TSX:PBH), which has grown its EPS and revenue at a rate of 312% and 175%, respectively, over the past five years. Shares of the packaged foods specialist have risen about 20% over the past year.

Premium Brands’s impressive growth is underpinned by smart acquisitions, popular brands, and steady traction in the United States. In the most recent quarter, earnings clocked in at $27 million, as revenue grew 16% to a record $968 million.

Moreover, U.S.-based sales now represent nearly 40% of total company sales.

“Our solid year-over-year results for the quarter, including our industry-leading organic growth rates, clearly illustrate the progress we are making in positioning our company for long-term success,” said CEO George Paleologou.

Premium Brands offers a decent dividend yield of 2.3%.

How convenient

Rounding out our list is Alimentation Couche-Tard (TSX:ATD.B), which has delivered EPS and revenue growth of 141% and 92%, respectively, over the past five years. Shares of the convenient store giant are up more than 20% over the past year.

Alimentation continues to lean on its massive scale (more than 12,500 stores), well-known brands (including Circle K, Couche-Tard, and Mac’s), and stable cash flows to deliver steady result for shareholders. In the most recent quarter, total merchandise and service revenue increased 2% to $3.5 billion.

More importantly, return on capital employed improved to 13.9% while management repurchased another $126.5 million worth of shares during the quarter.

“We continue to experience steady results in our overall business with strong fuel performance and merchandise sales,” said CEO Brian Hannasch.

Couche-Tarde shares trade at a forward P/E in the mid-20s.

The bottom line

There you have it, Fools: three attractive growth stocks for 2020.

They aren’t formal recommendations. Instead, view them as ideas worth further research. Even stocks with breakneck growth can crash hard if you don’t pay attention to valuation, so plenty of due diligence is still required.

Fool on.

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Fool contributor Brian Pacampara owns no position in any of the companies mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends ALIMENTATION COUCHE-TARD INC and GILDAN ACTIVEWEAR INC.

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Rain hits Australian fires, but blazes still rage

Heavy rain fell on bushfires in eastern Australia Friday for a second straight day, offering further relief from a months-long crisis, but dozens of blazes remained out of control.

This week’s wet weather has given exhausted firefighters a major boost in battling unprecedented blazes that have been fuelled by climate change and drought.

The fires have claimed 28 lives, scorched massive tracts of pristine forests and destroyed thousands of homes.

Following months of hot and dry weather that have fuelled the fires, Friday saw the heaviest rainfalls in nearly a decade in some areas close to hotspots.

“Rain has fallen across most fire grounds over the last 24 hours, which is great news,” said the Rural Fire Service of New South Wales, the eastern state where many of the worst blazes have raged.

“Our fingers are crossed that this continues over the coming days.”

However 30 fires were still out of control in New South Wales on Friday, unchanged from the previous day, the fire service reported.

Dozens of other fires were also still burning in the southern state of Victoria.

And the rain has completely missed Kangaroo Island, the nation’s third biggest off the southern coast of the mainland that is famed for its pristine wilderness.

Fires have devastated the national park on the island, wiping out much of its koala population and threatening to completely eradicate bird and other endemic marsupial species.

Still, the prospect of more wet weather across eastern and southern Australia over the coming days offered further hope.

Heavy rain is expected  to continue throughout the weekend in New South Wales, expanding into other fire zones further south in the state and in Victoria.

Animal rescues

Roughly a billion animals are estimated to have died in the fires nationwide.

With huge tracts of their habitats destroyed, environmental groups have warned the blazes could drive many species to extinction.

Much attention has focused on Australia’s tree-dwelling koalas, with images of the cuddly-looking animals being rescued from wildfires making world headlines.

But on Friday morning, some koalas and other native animals at the Australia Reptile Park on the east coast of New South Wales had to be rescued from floodwaters.

“This is incredible, just last week, we were having daily meetings to discuss the imminent threat of bushfires,” park director Tim Faulkner said.

“Today, we’ve had the whole team out there, drenched, acting fast to secure the safety of our animals and defend the park from the onslaught of water.

“We haven’t seen flooding like this at the park for over 15 years.”

The heavy rain is being seen as a double-edged sword.

The water could also make it harder for firefighting trucks to venture deep into forests on muddy tracks, authorities have warned.

Flash floods are another concern, with scorched mountains unable to hold the water and potentially sending torrents of muddy ash into waterways.

Such torrents have already led to huge numbers of fish dying in rivers that were poisoned by the muddy ash, local media have reported.

Climate alarm

The fires have burnt roughly 10 million hectares (25 million acres) of land — an area larger than South Korea or Portugal.

Their massive destruction is an example of the catastrophic impacts of climate change that the world will increasingly face, scientists have warned.

The past decade was the hottest on record globally, the United Nations reported this week.

Australia experienced its driest and hottest year on record in 2019, with its highest average maximum temperature of 41.9 degrees Celsius (107.4 degrees Fahrenheit) recorded in mid-December.

Famed British naturalist and broadcaster David Attenborough warned this week the world was facing its “moment of crisis” on climate change and could not delay action any longer.

“We have to realise that this is not playing games, this is not just having nice little debates and arguments, then coming away with a compromise,” he said in an interview with the BBC.

– AFP

The post Rain hits Australian fires, but blazes still rage appeared first on The Online Citizen.

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AHTC to remove Sylvia Lim and Low Thia Khiang from financial matters so to direct its energies towards fulfilling its core functions

Aljunied-Hougang Town Council has removed Ms Sylvia Lim and Mr Low Thia Khiang — both Members of Parliament for Aljunied GRC — from financial oversight of the town council, with effect from Thursday (16 January) after receiving a rectification order from the the Minister of National Development, Lawrence Wong on 3 January 2020.

In a statement published on the town council’s website, AHTC voiced its surprise that the Minister Wong is invoking Section 43D(2) of the Town Councils Act (TCA) to compel the Town Council to comply with the Ministry’s orders.

Under the section, the Minister, may by order given in writing to the Town Council, require the directed

Town Council —

  • to take specified remedial action to address the deficiencies within a specified period and to report to the Minister, at the end of the specified period, on the action taken to give effect to the requirement; or
  •  to take specified action to correct the irregularity or to guard against the recurrence of irregularities (or both) at the end of the specified period.

If a Town Council fails to comply with a rectification order by the compliance date, the Town Council shall be guilty of an offence and shall be liable on conviction to a fine not exceeding $5,000 and in the case of a continuing offence, to a further fine not exceeding $50 for every day or part of a day during which the offence continues after conviction.

The town council notes that this is a shift by the government from its earlier position in Parliament.

AHTC notes that the Second Minister for Finance lndranee Rajah had — during the debate on the Parliamentary Motion filed by the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Finance, Heng Swee Keat on 5 November 2019 — affirmed that it was the Town Council who had jurisdiction to decide on whether recusal of Ms Lim and Mr Low from financial oversight of Town Council matters was required and that Parliament was not in a position to compel the Town Council to take any action.

The motion filed by DPM Heng called for Ms Lim and Mr Low to recuse themselves from dealing with or having oversight over financial matters of the Aljunied-Hougang Town Council (AHTC) until the court case has ended.

Mr Heng referred to the High Court judgement which found Ms Lim, Mr Low, and WP chief Pritam Singh liable for damages suffered by AHTC, which it has been said made improper payments under their watch amounting to millions. The motion was eventually passed with the majority of People’s Action Party MPs.

AHTC also pointed out that Second Minister for National Development Desmond Lee directly addressed a query raised by a Nominated MP in the same debate, as to why the Government was asking Parliament to pass a resolution with no legal force, when the Minister for National Development could conceivably use his powers under Section 43D of the TCA.

In response, Minister Lee told the House that he was familiar with the provision, and noted that Section 43D was passed years after the actions taken by MP Lim and MP Low in 2011. He further highlighted that Section 43D gave powers to the Minister to act after a report or compliance review had been undertaken under the amended Act or after an investigation.

AHTC voiced agreement with the Minister’s opinion that Section 43D is not applicable to the facts due to concerns about retroactivity and the pre-conditions not being met.

“We are thus doubtful as to the propriety of the Rectification Order issued under Section 430(2).” states AHTC.

But as the letter from the ministry warned about the penalty of non-compliance, AHTC noted that it will comply despite its reservations to the order so that it can direct its energies towards fulfilling its core functions of managing and maintaining the HDB estates in Aljunied-Hougang Town for the residents.

According to AHTC,

  • With effect from 16 January 2020, Ms Lim has been removed from being an authorised officer to unilaterally incur or approve expenditure on behalf of the Town Council,  and no longer authorised to unilaterally accept or waive any quotation or tender for any stores, services or works on behalf of the Town Council.
  • With effect from 16 January 2020, Ms Lim’s and Mr Low’s votes at committee meetings involving procurement and expenditure will not be taken into account;
  • The Town Council will pass a resolution at its next meeting in February 2020 to remove Ms Lim and Mr Low as cheque signatories. In the meantime, the Town Council will not present cheques to them for signature.

On 4 December 2019, the Ministry of National Development (MND) wrote a letter to AHTC to request for information on AHTC’s reasons for not requiring Ms Lim and Mr Low’s recusal on AHTC’s financial matters, and whether AHTC intends to implement other interim measures or safeguards if Ms Lim and Mr Low were to continue to be involved with AHTC’s financial affairs.

In AHTC’s response to MND dated 13 December 2019, AHTC explained the reasons for not requiring the recusal of Ms Lim and Mr Low from all matters relating to, and oversight over, financial matters at AHTC.

Amongst other facts, the Town Council considered whether Ms Lim and Mr Low had benefitted personally from the award of contracts without tender.

The Town Council discussed and concluded that this was not the case. The Town Council further noted that the judgment did not pass any comment or establish a view that Ms Lim and Mr Low were incapable of handling financial matters.

Over the years, both Ms Lim and Mr Low did not show that they were incapable of handling financial matters at AHTC, a fact that town councillors said that they could vouch for; and AHTC found no compelling reasons to insist on the recusal of Ms Lim and Mr Low from financial matters at AHTC solely on the basis of political decisions taken by Mr Low and Ms Lim in the immediate aftermath of the 2011 general elections.

With the various internal control procedures in place, AHTC is of the view that there are sufficient checks and balances in place.

 

 

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Income Investors: 2 Stocks With a Dividend Yield of 10%

Woman calculating figures next to a laptop

Dividend-paying stocks remain an attractive investment, especially in markets that are trading at record highs. Dividend stocks provide a stable stream of income, and companies seldom cut dividend payments. Here we look at two Canadian-based companies that have a dividend yield of 10%.

Boston Pizza Royalties Income Fund

Shares of Boston Pizza Royalties Income Fund (TSX:BPF.UN) have grossly underperformed the broader markets over the last year. The stock has fallen 17% in the last 12 months compared to the S&P 500 gain of 25% in this period. The company is valued at $310.2 million. Boston Pizza stock is trading at a forward price-to-earnings ratio of 11, which is a reasonable multiple considering its dividend yield of 10%.

Company sales have been range bound in the recent past. Boston Pizza reported revenue of $45.7 million in 2016 and $45.6 million in 2018. Analysts expect sales to reach $45.2 million in 2020, $45 million in 2020, and $45 million in 2021.

We can see the stock has declined, as the company is struggling to grow sales. Boston Pizza Royalties Income Fund is an open-ended mutual fund trust. The fund earns revenue based on the Boston Pizza franchise system that has close to 400 outlets.

Boston Pizza has five corporate-owned outlets and 390 franchised restaurants. As the revenue stream is tied to franchise sales, investors are not exposed to the underlying business profitability or expenses.

After accounting for reinvestment distributions, Boston Pizza Royalties Income Fund has returned 12.2% on an average since 2002. Due to the company’s business model, it is able to payout 100% of distributable cash in dividends.

The fund operates in 10 provinces and two territories in Canada. It is accessible to almost 100% of the Canadian population, and gross sales touched $1.1 billion in 2018. Boston Pizza has added 48 restaurants since 2012 and is well positioned in the mid-scale dining category.

American Hotel Income Properties REIT

Shares of American Hotel Income Properties REIT (TSX:HOT.UN) have gained 0.3% in the last 12 months. Though the REIT has underperformed the S&P 500, it has a solid dividend yield of 11.6%.

This REIT invests in hotel real estate properties primarily in the United States. The REIT has two business segments: Rail Hotels and Branded Hotels. The Rail Hotels portfolio consists of 50 properties with a total of 3,720 rooms. These properties operate under the Oak Tree Inn brand and are aimed at fulfilling the needs of railroad operators.

At the end of Q3, American Hotels had a portfolio of 79 hotels and 8,887 guestrooms across 22 states and 51 cities. In the September quarter, the hotel occupancy rate stood at 79%, while the average daily guestroom rate was $116.5.

American Hotel Income Properties reported sales of $69.3 million with a net income of $23.5 million. The REIT’s payout ratio stands at 92%. AHIP focuses on generating sustainable cash flows from proven hotel properties.

This will help deliver long-term value to unitholders through monthly dividend distributions and stock appreciation.

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Fool contributor Aditya Raghunath has no position in any of the stocks mentioned.

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